like llamas and dog, are commonly used for protection from predators. Other options include fall lambing, the use of herders, and trapping or shooting.
Predation of sheep and goats can cause significant economic losses, and research is required before investing in multi-species grazing. Talk with local wildlife and livestock experts, assess potential problems and discuss possible solutions. Can an effective predator control program be developed for your operation? If the risks are too great, multi-species grazing may not be an economically feasible addition to your operation.
Solutions to predator problems do exist, and can generally reduce or eliminate livestock losses. Common strategies include guard animals, eradication, modification of operational approaches and herders.
Some producers believe running sheep and cattle together reduces predation losses, and recent studies support this theory. This strategy works well in smaller-scale operations; it’s less effective if the scale is too large, as cattle and sheep are more likely to disperse and separate. Some producers are now making efforts to "bond" cattle and sheep so that they are more likely to stay close together.
The use of guard animals, like dogs or donkeys, is one of the most commonly used forms of predator control, and can be extremely effective.
Dogs Dogs have been used to protect livestock for thousands of years.
A guard dog generally stays with sheep and aggressively repels predators. The dog stays with its flock because its been reared and trained to do so. Its protective behaviors are largely instinctive, with little formal training needed other than the correction of undesirable behaviors. A guard dog is not a herding dog, but rather a full-time member of the flock with little, if any, herding skills.
The characteristics of each operation will dictate the number of dogs required for effective protection. If predators are scarce, one dog is generally sufficient for most fencedpasture operations. Range operations often use two dogs per band of sheep.
Size, topography and habitat of the pasture or range must also be considered. Relatively flat, open areas can generally be covered by one dog. If hiding cover is present, several dogs may be required, particularly if sheep are scattered. Sheep that flock and form a cohesive unit, especially at night, are much easier to protect than scattered sheep that bed in a number of locations.
Advantages: Reduced predation; reduced labor costs; increased utilization of areas where predators have made grazing prohibitive; reduced fencing costs; increased potential for alerting owners to predators or other flock disturbances.
Disadvantages: Good guard dogs are relatively expensive, and do require an investment of time to rear, train, supervise and maintain.
Donkeys Donkeys and burros have not been researched as extensively as dogs, but are gaining popularity as guard animals.
Donkeys are generally friendly to people, but seem to have an inherent dislike for dogs and other canines, including coyotes and foxes. Donkeys are likely not acting so much to protect the sheep as acting out their aggression to the intruder. Donkeys are cheaper to obtain and care for than guard dogs, don’t require training and are less prone to accidental or premature death.
The following guidelines are recommended for the use of guard donkeys:
o Use only a jenny or gelded jack;
o Select a donkey of medium-sized stock (i.e., no miniatures);
o Use one donkey per band of sheep;
o Allow 4-6 weeks for a naïve donkey to bond with sheep. Stronger bonding generally occurs when a donkey is raised from birth with sheep;
o Test a new donkey’s instincts by challenging it with a dog in a pen or small pasture. Consider only donkeys that show aggression during this test;
o Use donkeys in smaller (less than 600 acres), relatively open pastures with no more than 200-300 head of livestock.
Llamas Llamas have been used successfully as guard animals, but little information about their use exists. In general, guidelines for donkeys can be applied to llamas.
Direct control of predators by shooting and trapping can be an effective technique for reducing predation losses. When considering this option, consultation with local APHIS-Wildlife Services (formerly Animal Damage Control) personnel is recommended.
If predators are common, altering the approach of your operation may reduce losses. Obviously, young stock are more vulnerable to predators, and utilizing a program with dry females or wethers can reduce losses. If the enterprise includes breeding females, utilize fall or winter lambing so that lambs are older and bigger when turned out to pasture. Another option is simply not turning lambs out to pasture they’re far less susceptible to predators when contained in a feedlot.
Herders can provide excellent predator control, but may not be practical for smaller, fenced-pasture operations.
As you can see, there are many tools to help minimize predation losses.
It is extremely important, however, to evaluate the potential impact of predators BEFORE making a large investment of time and money into a multi-species grazing program. Homework up front will definitely pay off in the long run.
Fencing Table of Contents Integrated Pest Management